Faces and Traces: Paying Tribute to Unsung Heroes

Friday 8 September 2023, 15h00 to 17h00 Cape Town Time (+2GMT) | Online

Invitation to an Online Book Discussion Faces and Traces: Paying Tribute to Unsung Heroes

Concept Note

1. Introduction

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (IJR), based in Cape Town, South Africa will host an online book discussion as part of dissemination activities focused on knowledge and information sharing on challenges to memorialization processes in African divided societies and the importance of storytelling in promoting reconciliation. The title of the book is Faces and Traces: Paying tribute to unsung heroes (2022) by Patrick Hajayandi, Senior Project Leader at IJR. The book contains stories of people who protected or saved others during the 1993 inter-ethnic bloody conflict that erupted in Burundi after the assassination of President Melchior Ndadaye by the Burundian armed forces.

The book discussion will take place on Friday 08th September 2023 and will be an online event starting from 15h00 to 17h00 Cape Town Time (+2GMT). The target audience includes TJ practitioners, analysts, academics, inter-governmental actors, researchers and students, and anyone interested in or working on issues that relate to peacebuilding, transitional justice, and national reconciliation across the African continent. One of the discussion’s key objectives will be to analyze the challenges of memorialization as one of the controversial TJ processes and the need to create safe spaces for victims and witnesses of atrocities so that they can express themselves, share the burden of a traumatic past and participate in the national healing process.

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/2vnvvrpb

2. Background and context

For the past half-century Burundi, as a nation, was confronted with forms of repression, ethnic violence, and mass killings which resulted in chronic political instability and endemic poverty. Today the majority of Burundians (70-90%) admit that they have been negatively affected by the consequences of this traumatic past (Hajayandi 2019). This form of violence has not affected only Burundian society but also neighboring countries to varying degrees.

The processes of remembrance and memorialization in Burundi and around this traumatic past have been characterized by antagonism between the two main social groups – the Hutu and Tutsi – each depicting itself as the only real victim. This stands as a serious hindrance to efforts to heal the wounds caused by the violence endured in the past. Within the contemporary Burundian society and in the region, there is a big challenge in attempting to create spaces where all victims are not only equally remembered but also where their pain is understood and acknowledged. The IJR is using storytelling in memorialization as a tool to support and contribute to the healing process while at the same time evidencing the difficulties linked to such a process.

According to a recent study by the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation (2019), between 69-72% of Burundians who participated in the survey suggested the establishment of a single date for commemoration for all victims as an important step towards healing the nation. The creation of common spaces for remembrance is believed to play an important role in promoting inclusivity and reconciliation. This new project which emphasizes photos and stories comes as a significant contribution to the process of commemoration and remembrance. Addressing the problem of inclusive spaces of commemoration is a step in the right direction in terms of consolidating peace and stability and promoting reconciliation and social justice. Numerous lessons can be learned at the regional level through engagement in a cross-border exchange around the photo exhibition as a stimulus for the dialogue.

3. Objectives

  • To discuss challenges linked to memorialization processes in Africa and reflect on pathways toward sustainable solutions;
  • To analyze the place of victims and witnesses in broader transitional justice processes within divided societies similar to the Burundian one
  • To share key lessons from the Burundi case in terms of memorialization with particular attention to storytelling and its role in the healing process of a wounded society.

4. Expected Outcomes

  • Awareness of existing challenges is raised and solutions are proposed to address those challenges.
  • The place of victims and witnesses in TJ processes and memorialization, in particular, is analyzed and insights are shared widely
  • Lessons from the memorialization process in Burundi are drawn and the contexts where storytelling is likely to bring positive results are identified

5. Speakers will include:

  • E. Willy Nyamitwe, Ambassador of Burundi to African Union, Ethiopia and Djibouti
  • Jeanine Ntihirageza, Director of GHRAD at Northeastern Illinois University, USA
  • Theodore Mbazumutima, Executive Director, Rema Burundi
  • Patrick Hajayandi (Moderator)

6. The target groups

The target audience includes TJ practitioners, analysts, academics, inter-governmental actors, researchers and students, and anyone interested in or working on issues that relate to peacebuilding, transitional justice, and national reconciliation across the African continent.

7. Date and venue

The Book discussion will be convened on Friday, 8 September 2023, Online [Zoom] . For additional information contact: Mr. Patrick Hajayandi, IJR Senior Project Leader, at phajayandi@ijr.org.za.

Register here: https://tinyurl.com/2vnvvrpb

8. About the Institute for Justice and Reconciliation:

The Institute for Justice and Reconciliation, established in 2000, is a Pan-African organization that works collaboratively with governments, and inter-governmental and civil society actors to contribute towards building fair, democratic, and inclusive societies across the continent, through transitional justice and peacebuilding interventions. The IJR’s work is informed by the insights gained from working with governmental stakeholders and grassroots communities in countries such as Burundi, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Eastern DRC, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Sudan, South Africa, and Zimbabwe. Historically, IJR has worked on interventions in Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Rwanda, and Uganda. Internationally, IJR has provided strategic and technical advice to stakeholders in Colombia, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Thailand, the UK, and the USA. The IJR is a trusted advisor to key decision-makers and inter-governmental actors on transitional justice and peacebuilding initiatives and engages with the African Union (AU), SADC, EAC, IGAD, ICGLR, European Union (EU), and the United Nations system. IJR has partnered with the UN Development Programme (UNDP) on several in-country interventions in Africa. On this basis, in 2021, IJR was tasked by the UNDP to develop its Guidelines on Mental Health Psychosocial Support and Peacebuilding. IJR has positioned itself as a provider of choice of reliable qualitative data on public perception in the areas of peace and security. The pioneering South African Reconciliation Barometer enables the IJR to be the leading African think tank in terms of providing public opinion data in these areas. We welcome collaboration with like-minded partners and invite you to find out more about our work on our website: www.ijr.org.za.